|By Shawn Childs, Monday, August 28, 2023|
2023 Arizona Cardinals Outlook
The Cardinals start a new era with the addition of Jonathan Gannon as their head coach. He earned his way to Arizona via the defensive coordinator job for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2021 and 2022. His pro coaching career started in 2007 with Atlanta, giving him 12 years of experience in the NFL.
Drew Petzing takes over their Cardinals' offensive coordinator. Last year, he worked as the quarterback's coach for the Cleveland Browns. His NFL coaching career started in 2013 as a football operation intern. Petzing earned his way up the ranks on the offensive side of the ball over nine years.
Arizona fell to 21st in points scored (340 – 109 fewer than in 2021) while playing without Kyler Murray for seven weeks. They finished 22nd in offensive yards.
Their defense is now in the hands of Nick Rallis, who worked under Jonathan Gannon in Philadelphia (linebackers coach). He has five years of experience coaching in the NFL at age 29.
The Cardinals fell to 31st in points allowed (449), 83 more than in 2021. Their defense fell to 21st in yards allowed.
The top two players added in free agency came on the defensive side of the ball – DT Zach Allen and CB Byron Murphy. They signed for a combined $63 million. LB Kyzir White left to play for the Eagles.
The only players not retained in the offseason were G Justin Pugh (FA) and WR DeAndre Hopkins.
The Cardinals added two offensive linemen (T Paris Johnson and G Jon Gaines) with their first five picks.
Johnson projects to have a long career in the NFL. He has yet to reach his ceiling, pointing to an impact player with minor improvements in his technique and added strength. Johnson should hit the ground running in pass protection and in run blocking. His strength, vision, and quickness are assets.
Gaines plays fast with vision and understanding of play development, but his aggressiveness sometimes puts him out of position. He'll have some risk in pass protection out of the gate due to his footwork, hands, and positioning after the snap.
Arizona shifted to their defense in the second and third rounds – BJ Ojulari and CB Garrett Williams.
Ojulari has a disrupter feel in the pass rush, and he will be challenging to slow down when given a winning window on the outside. His quickness and speed grade well while needing to add more strength to power through some blocks. Ojulari doesn't have the run defense figured out yet that would be helped by more gas in his engine. His next step is developing his pass-rushing arsenal.
Williams slid in this year's draft due to a torn ACL in his knee last fall. His game shines when facing the quarterback and attacking an incoming pass. He can get tripped up in coverage out of the press when in a trail position, especially over the long field. Williams will hold his own in run support.
With their second pick in the third round, the Cardinals invested in WR Michael Wilson. He comes with a physical profile (6'2" and 215 lbs.) while gaining his edge with strength over speed (4.58 40-yard dash). His strikes come from a short resume (14 games) in college and weakness defeating press coverage. Wilson has a decent floor in route running while playing at full throttle on most plays. His hands don't project to be an edge.
Clayton Tune was Arizona's shot at a future quarterback. His mechanics need work to improve his accuracy under duress and on the move. He can read defenses, but his arm doesn't always have the fire to win in tight coverage.
The Cardinals drafted LB Owen Pappoe, CB Kei'Trel Clark, and DT Dante Stills over their final three selections in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Pappoe is an undersized linebacker (6'0" and 225 lbs.) who brings an edge in speed (4.39 40-yard dash) and strength. Unfortunately, his vision and fire after the snap don't put him in a position to make enough impactful plays. The Cardinals will try to unlock his game by using him on passing downs, allowing more freedom to roam.
Clark has a high foundation of speed (4.42 40-yard dash) and quickness, but he comes to the NFL with a slender build (5'10" and 180 lbs.). His game has risk vs. the run and expected weakness against big, physical receivers. Clark isn't ready to match slot wideouts, putting him in development mode in 2023.
Stills falls into the tweener option on the defensive line. He gets off the ball quickly, with some moves to get to the quarterback. On the downside, power run blockers will have their way with him until Stills develops his lower half and adds more strength. His future lies inside at the defensive tackle position.
The Cardinals fell to 22nd in rushing yards (1,873) with 15 touchdowns and nine runs over 20 yards. They averaged only 4.3 yards per carry with 25.5 attempts per game.
Arizona slipped to 17th in passing yards (3,966) with 17 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. They gained 6.0 yards per pass attempt with only 40 completions over 20 yards, with a league-low reaching the 40-yard mark. Their offensive line allowed 46 sacks.
LT D.J. Humphries missed nine games last year due to a back injury. He didn't allow a sack in his eight starts while failing to match his previous success in run blocking. The Cardinals drafted him in the first round in 2015.
LG Paris Johnson starts his NFL career at the guard position, giving him time to develop his pass protection skill before shifting back to left tackle. His run blocking should be an asset in year one.
The center position will be an open competition between Hjalte Froholdt and incoming rookie Jon Gaines. Both players appear to be below-par options in 2023.
RG Will Hernandez was a much better pass blocker last season after struggling in this area with the Giants over the previous two years. His value in the run game remains below the league average.
RT Kelvin Beachum continues to allow too many sacks and pressure on the quarterback. His run blocking has been a liability over the past seven seasons.
The left side of this offensive line should be much better in 2023. The other three positions project below the league average. A healthy Kyler Murray will mask some of their risk in pass blocking.
Game score led to the Cardinals ranking fourth in pass attempts (664) and third in plays (1,098). Without Kyler Murray for about seven games, Arizona ran the ball 3.7 times fewer than in 2022. The change in coaching staff points to a more balanced offense this season.
QB Kyler Murray - Bust (overvalued)
After an excellent season in 2020 (4,790 combined yards with 37 touchdowns), Murray missed three matchups midseason with an ankle issue that lingered for the remainder of the year. He had regression rushing the ball (88/423/5 – 133/819/11 in 2020), but his completion rate (69.2) and yards per pass attempt (7.9) were career highs. Murray started the year with two impact games (37.45 and 39.10 fantasy points in four-point passing), followed by four steady showings (22.70, 25.30, 28.05, and 25.05 fantasy points) over the next five weeks. Over his final six starts, he passed for 1,511 yards and three touchdowns with a rebound in explosiveness in the run game (39/276/2).
Last season. Murray had a dull feel over his first seven starts, leading to one impact game (305 combined yards with two touchdowns) and two steady showing in fantasy points (22.55 and 25.95) in four-point passing touchdown leagues. After an uptick in production in Week 8 (362/3), he missed seven of their next nine games with a hamstring issue and a torn ACL in his left knee. His best value as a runner came over his final five full starts (38/382/1). Murray didn't have a completion of 40 yards or more while gaining a career-low 6.1 yards per pass attempt.
Fantasy Outlook: His left knee surgery came on January 4th, putting him behind schedule for the start of the season. In addition, Murray will be less active as a runner in his first few games when he returns to game action. In the early draft season in the high-stakes market, Murray is the 20th quarterback drafted. Arizona didn't improve their receiving corps in the offseason, making it difficult to trust their star quarterback in the fantasy market. In the first run of the projections, I'll have Murray out for four weeks with a step back in value in the run game. His summer news will dictate his ultimate fantasy value in 2023.
UPDATE: There are some rumors floating that Murray could miss more games than anticipated. Perhpas even the entire season as the new regime tanks for Caleb Williams. Murray has intriguing upside when healthy, but he's best left as a free-agent on draft day.
QB Clayton Tune - Low Potential
Over five seasons in college, Tune passed for 11,996 yards with 104 touchdowns and 41 interceptions. He was also active in the run game (412/1,256/15). In his senior year, Tune gained 4,618 combined yards with 45 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His production rushing the ball peaked in 2022 (128/544/2).
Fantasy Outlook: Tune improved each year in college. His style of play has more overlap than Colt McCoy with Kyler Murray, but I doubt Arizona will roll out a rookie quarterback in September.
RB James Conner - Quality Backup
From 2018 to 2020, with a starting job in Pittsburgh, Conner missed 12 games, leading to a challenging player to manage in the fantasy market. He played well in 2018 (1,370 yards with 13 touchdowns and 55 catches over 13 games. His success placed him sixth in running back scoring (282.00 fantasy points) in PPR leagues.
In 2021, in a split role for the Cardinals, Conner gained only 3.7 yards per rush, with three of his 202 carries gaining 20 yards or more. He made the best of his opportunity by scoring 15 rushing touchdowns. In the passing game, Conner looked more explosive (10.1 yards per catch) with an exceptional catch rate (94.9). Most of his success catching the ball came over four matchups (5/77/1, 5/37, 9/94, and 6/41/1) over the second half of the year. Conner gained over 60 yards in only five contests in the running game. His best value rushing the ball came from Week 9 to Week 13 (72/272/4).
Last season, he finished 19th in running back scoring (201.20) in PPR formats while playing in 13 games. A rib issue knocked him out for three weeks early in the year, and in Week 18 with a shin injury. From Week 10 to Week 17, Conner delivered seven productive games (23.60, 13.40, 22.00, 23.40, 18.10, 25.00, and 14.00 fantasy points). He rushed for more than 100 yards in one matchup (25/120 with three catches for 20 yards and one score).
Fantasy Outlook: Conner ranks 27th at running back in late June. Over the past two seasons, he averaged 16.7 touches with Arizona. At the minimum, Arizona should give him the ball 15 times a game in 2023, with 25% of his chances coming in receptions. On the downside, Conner typically misses about three games a year.
RB Keaontay Ingram - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
Over four seasons in college, Ingram worked in a split role. He finished with a high catch rate (87.3), leading to 89 catches for 671 yards and six touchdowns. Ingram offered change of pace value in the run game (495/2,722/16), with the best output coming in 2019 (144/853/7 with 29 catches for 242 yards and three scores.
In his rookie season, the Cardinals gave Ingram 31 touches, leading to 81 yards with one touchdown and four catches. His top output came in Week 7 (9/14/1 and two catches for 23 yards).
Fantasy Outlook: The running back depth behind James Conner is uninspiring, pointing to Ingram having a clear path to the Cardinals' RB2 role. His price point tends to be free, making it easy to buy him as a handcuff. An interesting running back option, but he still has a lot to prove to be a fantasy factor if given an opportunity.
Other Options: Corey Clement, Ty'Son Williams, Emari Demercado
WR Marquise Brown - Quality Backup
The progression of Brown reached an exciting level in his third year with the Ravens. He had almost a 50% jump in targets (146 –100 in 2020), leading to career-highs in catches (91) and receiving yards (1,008). Over his first 46 games in the NFL, Brown delivered 21 touchdowns with 36 catches of 20 yards or more. His only regression in 2021 came in his yards per catch (11.1 – 13.0 over his first two years). Brown gained over 100 yards in only three matchups (6/113/1, 9/125/2, and 9/116) under the guidance of Lamar Jackson. He had a floor of six catches in seven games. His only missed game came in Week 11 due to a thigh issue. Brown finished 21st in wide receiver scoring (227.30) in PPR leagues.
Over his first six games with the Cardinals, he caught 43 of his 64 targets for 485 yards and three touchdowns while averaging 18.25 fantasy points in PPR formats. Unfortunately, Brown sat out the following five weeks with a left foot injury. Without Kyler Murray behind center, his production (24/224 – 9.3 yards per catch) wasn't worth starting value over his final six starts.
Fantasy Outlook: The questions with the starting quarterback in Arizona early in the season led to Brown ranking (36th at wide receiver) below his expected play over the past two years. Over his last 28 starts, he averaged 5.4 catches for 61.5 yards and 0.32 touchdowns (13.47 FPPG in PPR formats). Brown should be a value this draft season, but he needs more scoring to reach a higher ceiling.
WR Rondale Moore - Bye Week Fill-in
In his rookie season, Moore almost had a running back feel in the passing game based on his yards per catch (8.1). He finished with 54 catches for 435 yards and one score on 64 targets over 14 games. Moore jumped out of the gate in 2021 with two productive showings (4/68 and 7/114/1). Over the following 11 matchups, he struggled to make plays in space (41/252/0 – 6.1 yards per catch) while averaging only 3.7 targets. Moore missed the final three games with an ankle issue.
His 2022 season started with three missed games with a hamstring injury. Moore shined in five matchups (7/68, 6/49, 7/92/1, 8/69, and 9/94) over his first seven weeks back in the starting lineup. Unfortunately, a groin issue ended his year after two snaps in Week 11. He had sports hernia surgery in December.
Fantasy Outlook: Moore moved to the Cardinals' WR2 with DeAndre Hopkins is no longer on the roster. He'll work the short areas of the field, with a chance to catch 80 passes for 800 yards with low value in scoring. Moore projects to be a backend WR5 in PPR formats.
WR Michael Wilson - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
After flashing in 2019 (56/672/5 on 84 targets) for Stanford, Wilson only played 14 more games over the next three seasons (64/911/5 on 95 targets). His highlight game (6/176/2) last year came against Washington. Wilson missed time came from a pair of foot injuries.
Fantasy Outlook: Wilson gives the Cardinals a big wideout on the outside to take the top off a defense. His resume is short, but he does have the talent to make big plays and provide scoring on jump balls in the end zone. Possible upside when Arizona gives him a chance to start.
Other Options: Zach Pascal, Andre Baccellia, Daniel Arias, Brian Cobbs
WR Greg Dortch - Deep-league Only
Dortch proved to be a valuable asset for Arizona as injury cover for Rondale Moore. He delivered three productive weeks (7/63, 4/55/1, and 9/80) to start the season. Over the next seven weeks, Arizona only looked his way six times, leading to five catches for 23 yards and one score. Dortch played well in two other matchups (9/103 and 10/123) after Week 10.
Over two seasons at Wake Forest, he caught 142 of his 204 passes for 1,829 yards and 17 touchdowns. His highlight season came in 2018 (89/1,098/8).
Fantasy Outlook: Dortch is more of an insurance policy to Rondale Moore than a projectable outside threat due to size (5'7" and 175 Lbs.). He'll be found in the free-agent pool in most redraft formats.
TE Zach Ertz - Gamble (high risk)
Over his first nine seasons in the NFL, Ertz was a top-tier tight end six times, highlighted by his success in 2018 (116/1,163/8 on 156 targets). However, he battled injuries in 2020, leading to short production (36/335/1). In 2021, Ertz finished fifth in tight end scoring (180.70 fantasy points) in PPR leagues, with most of the damage coming with the Cardinals (56/574/3) over 11 starts. Ertz had at least six catches in six of his final seven starts in Arizona while delivering one impact game (8/88/2).
Last year, his season ended after 10 games due to torn ACL in his left knee. When on the field, Ertz offered steady production in seven matchups (8/75, 6/45, 6/47/1, 6/48, 7/70, 4/34/1, and 5/40/1) while gaining a career-low 8.6 yards per catch. The Cardinals gave him double-digit targets in four games.
Fantasy Outlook: His knee surgery came in the last week of November, giving Ertz nine full months to recover before the start of the season. In late June, he was undrafted in many 12-team leagues in the high-stakes market. At age 32, his better days are behind him, but Ertz may still produce backend starting stats in 2023 if his summer reports are positive about his recovery.
TE Trey McBride - Quality Backup
In his final season in college, McBride finished with 90 catches for 1,121 yards on 134 targets, but he only scored one touchdown. Over the previous two seasons, over 16 combined games, McBride had 67 catches for 890 yards and eight scores on 88 targets (76.1% catch rate). His 2021 season started with three active games (13/116, 8/114/1, and 9/109) while having a floor of six catches in 11 of his 12 starts.
Despite needing some work on his blocking techniques, McBride has the feel of a power tight end with good hands. He'll work the short areas of the field, but his overall speed limits his ceiling in the deep passing game. McBride can make plays with his feet in space, and his strength does create some missed tackles. His route running is in the right place to start his NFL career.
In his rookie season of relief of Zach Ertz, McBride caught 29 of his 39 targets for 265 yards and one score. His best stats came in Week 15 (4/55) and Week 17 (7/78/1).
Fantasy Outlook: His foundation skill set gives him three-down ability while needing to prove he can handle stronger defenders. McBride has a developing ceiling, and the Cardinals will give him plenty of chances early in the year if Ertz isn't ready to go.
Other Options: Noah Togiai, Chris Pierce, Bernhard Seikovits
PK Matt Prater - Not Draft Worthy
Over two seasons with Arizona, Prater made 52 of his 62 field goals (83.9%) with three missed extra-point (67 attempts). He continues to be a top kicker from 50 yards or more (12-for-16), with excellent success in this area over the past seven seasons (47-for-62). Prater missed four games last year due to a hip injury.
Fantasy Outlook: The Cardinals scored 35 touchdowns in 2022 with 30 field goal chances. Their offense ranks below the league average, pointing to weakness in scoring chances again this year.
Arizona - Not Draft Worthy
Arizona fell to 14th in rushing yards allowed (2,016 yards) while allowing 21 touchdowns. Ball carriers gained only 4.5 yards per rush, with 26.2 runs per game.
The Cardinals slipped to 24th in passing yards allowed (3,915) with 29 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Their defense delivered 36 sacks while quarterbacks gained 7.1 yards per pass attempt.
DE Zaven Collins earned a full-time starting job in his second year with the Cardinals after getting drafted 16th overall in 2021. He recorded 100 tackles, but his run defense was a liability at times due to too many missed tackles. Collins only has two career sacks over his two seasons in the league. DE L.J. Collier has been in the NFL for four years, but he has yet to make an impact after getting drafted in the first round in 2019. Over the past two seasons, he missed 16 games with the Seahawks. DE Cameron Thomas and DE Myjai Sanders are the best young players coming off the bench.
DT Leki Fotu saw his snaps increase in back-to-back years, but he remains a below-par player against the run with a minimal pass rush. The Cardinals don't have a standout option to start at either defensive tackle position, inviting continued weakness slowing down the run and spotty production in sacks.
LB Kyzir White delivered 254 tackles over the past two seasons with the Chargers and Eagles. He has been a league-average player so far in his career. The Packers gave LB Krys Barnes starting snaps in 2020 and 2021, leading to 161 tackles and two sacks over 29 games. He missed 11 weeks last year due to ankle and concussion issues. Rookie LB BJ Ojulari slips into the starting lineup after Arizona added him in the second round in 2023. He projects to improve their pass rush with some questions about his value in the run game.
CB Marco Wilson had improvement in his coverage last year while delivering 58 tackles, three interceptions, and 10 defended passes. He offers minimal help in run support with too many missed tackles. Isiah Simmons will make the transition from safety to cornerback in 2023. Over the past two years, he delivered 204 tackles, 5.5 sacks, three interceptions, and 14 defended passes. S Budda Baker has been a top tackler for the Cardinals over five seasons, helping him rank highly vs. the run. He allows a high catch rate while facing only a couple of targets per game. S Jalen Thompson is a third player at the third level of Arizona's defense, with more than 100 tackles over the previous two seasons. He has four interceptions and 15 defended passes in 2021 and 2022.
This defense has competitive players in their secondary, but a ton of tackles by their safeties and cornerback suggest weakness at linebacker. I don't see any star players with plenty of questions at defensive tackle and linebacker. This defense will be found in the free-agent pool in all fantasy formats.